I was born August 18, 1975 in Pipestone, MN, to Jim and Gloria Bleyenberg, and am the second oldest of five children. My earliest years were spent on a farm outside of Edgerton, during which time I attended the Protestant Reformed Free Christian School for two years and was instructed through the preaching in Edgerton PRC.
In 1982 our family moved to Chino, California. We lived there eight years and attended Hope PRC, in Redlands. Eight years later, in the fall of 1990 (my freshman year in high school), we moved back to Edgerton, and I finished my high school instruction at the local Christian Reformed high school.
I decided to attend Dordt College, majoring in mechanical engineering. In 1998, having graduated from Dordt, I packed my bags, loaded my car, crossed the Mississippi, and enterered uncharted territory (at least for me), and at long last arrived in Grand Rapids, MI. Though it was a long day of driving, it turned out to be a good day. I arrived just in time to attend Bible study that night at Hope PRC.
From 1998 to 2004 I worked as a mechanical engineer making construction documents and designing many of the mechanical features present in grocery/retail stores. People have often asked me, “You must not have liked your job, seeing that you entered seminary?” On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed my job. But the call of God is irresistible, and he would give me more enjoyment and comfort in the way of submitting to his will. In 2008 I graduated from seminary and was called to be the first minister of Providence PRC.
My days in seminary were memorable. The classroom instruction was top-notch — Reformed, godly, and edifying. So lively were the classroom lectures that once, during church polity, the ceiling fell down during the middle of class! During my seminary years I had the privilege of providing housing for two other seminarians. (Rev.) Cory Griess lived with me for one year. After that, the Irishman (Rev.) Martyn McGeown took up residence in my basement for two years. I provided the housing. He provided the dry Irish wit. We had many a good discussion late into the night. I count both men dear friends of mine.
In November of 2008 I was ordained into the ministry. For some seven months I was a bachelor living in the parsonage. I met my wife, Deborah Key, the summer before I was ordained, and we were engaged shortly after ordination. She has been a faithful help to me in the ministry. My wife and I enjoy all things nature —bike riding, hiking, gardening, and especially bird watching. Every four years you can find me cheering for the USA and the Netherlands in the World Cup.
The Lord calls a man to the ministry in different ways and at different times in his life. Some men know when they are younger and begin preparing already in high school. I did not feel the force of the call until my mid-twenties. That’s not to say that the Lord hadn’t planted the seed earlier in my life. Once while I was in college, I traveled home to Edgerton for family visitation. During the meeting, the elder asked me if I had ever considered the ministry. I was rather startled by the question. Startled, because my answer was, “Yes, I have considered it,” but all too often would dismiss the notion very quickly. The Lord also worked in my heart by giving me more and more an interest in spiritual things. That interest led me in my junior year of college to purchase Reformed Dogmatics and In the Sanctuary, books by Herman Hoeksema. What a thrill when the books arrived in the mail! I take the time to thank the RFPA for giving students free subscriptions to the Standard Bearer. Any of you young men (and young women) in college, by all means take advantage of this free gift! I recall reading with an excited interest the “News from Seminary Hill,” and especially Prof. Decker’s convocation address from 1 Thess. 5:25: “Brethren, Pray for Us” (Vol. 73, p.55).
After I graduated from college and moved to Michigan, I struggled with the call to the ministry more and more. Eventually the issue boiled down to this — how will God have me serve him? How would the risen and exalted Christ use me in his kingdom and covenant? The churches needed ministers. I had an interest in spiritual things. By God’s grace, I loved Jesus Christ and his church. I did not have the other commitments that go along with having a wife and children. The Lord led me very slowly, and at times painfully, to seek admission into seminary and thus into the ministry.
I’ve been asked to give any advice to young men who may be considering the ministry.
First, by all means pray to God. Pour your heart out unto Him. Ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit that you may be led to know God’s will. In so doing, you may have the confidence that God will lead you.
For many men the answer God gives is the same answer Jesus gave to the Gadarene demoniac whom he healed. The man, understandably, wanted to be near Jesus and be with Jesus in a special way. But the word of Jesus to him was, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee” (Mark 5:19). Jesus was saying “You’ve tasted of the healing mercies of God. You want to be with me. You want to be my special disciple. That’s a good desire in and of itself. But that’s not my will for you. My will for you is that you go home, and tell your family, tell your neighbors, all the great things I’ve done for you.” I say, for many men, the answer of Jesus in response to their prayers is “You wonder about being a minister? That’s good that you think about that. But that’s not my will for you. My will for you is that you serve as elder, as deacon, or as a God-fearing man in the office of all believer: prophet, priest, and king.” What a high and noble calling that is! May God grant our churches more of these men to serve in this capacity!
But for other men, the Lord calls in a special way. In response to their prayers, God will impress that call upon the man’s heart so that that man has no peace as long as he puts off preparation for the ministry. The desire for the ministry simply does not go away. It consumes the man’s thoughts day in and day out, and so long as he remains idle, makes him a miserable, miserable man.
Young men, pray to God. And do not dismiss so easily your leanings toward the pastoral ministry. Your serious consideration of it might very well be an indication that God has called you to it.
Second, for you men considering the ministry, speak to somebody. Speak to parents. Speak to that teacher who knows your strengths and weaknesses. Go to your minister. Seek the advice of the elders. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. Speak to these people and tell them you are considering the ministry and whether they see in you the natural gifts for the labor. They will be able to give you good advice and encouragement. And when necessary, they will spur you on in your preparation. The longer a man resists the call, the more difficult it becomes later in life to begin—though it is not impossible.
Above all, demonstrate in your life humility, godliness, and a fervent love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for his blood-bought people.